Warning: Do Not Eat At This Chinese Restaurant!
Rice Republic is a great Chinese restaurant….if you’re on a low-calorie diet.
Rice Republic recently opened up a new restaurant in Downtown Summerlin. It’s in the epicenter of a neo-urban commercial enclave adjacent to the Red Rock Casino, which will eventually have more than 100 new shops and restaurants. Think of a sparkling new downtown area, with plenty of parking and no crowds (at least, not yet).
From the outside, the popular Taiwanese-themed eatery seems quite appealing. Everything looks clean and new. The restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating, which is divided by a huge glass window. Yesterday afternoon while Marieta and I were standing outside pondering the menu which was posted on a marques near the front door, we were greeted by an aggressive host who invited us to take a seat. We’d heard of Rice Republic before and we certainly love good Asian food, so this was the perfect occasion be adventurous and try out a new restaurant.
We were seated. Then, things quickly went downhill until the unforeseeable edge of a cliff was reached.
Rice Republic offers a somewhat limited menu, particularly when compared with most other Asian restaurants. Its offerings are more like a noodle bar than what you’d expect in any Chinatown. However, there were certainly enough menu items to tempt us, so this was no reason to panic or abandon ship. Not yet.
Unfortunately, our waiter struggled a bit with a language issue. This is fairly common in many ethnic restaurants, and virtually guaranteed in authentic Chinese restaurants. I’d never judge either service or the food based on a server’s lack of English-language skills. After all, new immigrants deserve a chance to make it in our society, and restaurants are often the most common means of early upward mobility for unskilled workers. When language is a barrier, that’s usually not a problem. The best thing to do is grab the menu and point.
That’s precisely what I did.
We ordered a wonton soup for two, made Hong Kong style. Then, we each ordered a rice dish as our main entrée. I requested a glass of iced tea. Pretty simple order, really. The waiter wrote down our choices, then left the table.
Okay, it’s me. What I mean by this is — what I am about to write is just me. It’s one of the little things that annoys the hell out of me in restaurants. It’s a huge red flag that the server is either inattentive or simply does not care about his job. I’m talking about iced tea. How difficult is that simple concoction to make, and serve properly? Well, this restaurant (or the waiter) didn’t have a clue. Check out photo (above).
First, the tea gets delivered to me in one of those horrible cheap plastic glasses. This would be perfectly fine for a no-frills diner with blue plate specials costing $7. But given that Rice Republic goes for a more upscale atmosphere, cheap plastic glasses are a turn off and a no-no.
NO WIRE HANGERS! NO CHEAP PLASTIC GLASSES!
As I was saying….
My “iced tea” is anything but. There are a few cubes desperately floating on top, which quickly melt like icebergs floating into the South Pacific. My food hasn’t even arrived yet and I’m already annoyed since now my requested beverage has been reduced to just simple — tea. No ice. Oh, and there’s no lemon either. What restaurant serves iced tea without a lemon? Answer: This one.
Okay, so maybe the waiter just got off the boat this morning and doesn’t understand the contemporary iced tea presentation here in America. Fair enough. But that’s one of the first things any server should learn quickly, like on the first day, especially at a popular in-and-out lunch place in Las Vegas, where probably a quarter to a third of the customers are going to order ICED TEA. Not tea. ICED tea.
But do I get all emotional and blow up? No. Do I throw a tantrum? No. Did I flag down the waiter? No. Did I say anything? No. That’s because I’m tolerant and understanding. I can roll with the punches and even taken a few — at least until the later rounds when backed into a corner and forced to fight.
Twenty-five minutes pass. I read through an entire newspaper, and even manage to answer two e-mails. Where’s the wonton soup? Why is this taking so long?
Is the kitchen busy? Nope. That’s not it. I count three chefs and 11 customers in the entire place. Did the waiter forget? Maybe. He’s got two tables to juggle. Yet I don’t know how anyone can forget an order when it was clearly WRITTEN DOWN, and then presumably turned in. Who dropped the ball? WHERE’S MY FUCKING WONTON SOUP? If this is “Hong Kong Style,” no wonder everyone over there weighs 110 pounds.
Finally, our two entrees came out. No soup yet. But, by this time we were both angry and hungry and would have welcomed anything. Toss the elephant a peanut. Serve us a fortune cookie. Anything.
Marieta ordered pork fried rice, which can be quite tasty when done right. Her’s was a smaller-than-expected portion, with tiny bits of pork meat. More like diced pork. The rice was soggy and scarcely mixed with a scant few vegetables. It was about half the size you’d get in a typical Chinatown, but priced about 50 percent higher. Most disappointing of all — it wasn’t very good. Check out photo (above).
My order was worse. It was a joke. I requested “Shredded Chicken with Ginger (and rice).” A softball size scoop of white rice was delivered, topped with light shreds of chicken meal (about as much chicken as you’d find on one drumstick). The top was splashed with a dollop of COLD ginger, probably out of a bottle purchased from the International Market. The entre was almost tasteless. Jail like. Imagine eating white rice, with a weak flavor of ginger. Check out the photo (above).
I had no intention whatsoever of reviewing this restaurant until then, but this was my breaking point. Lame iced tea I can get past. Forgetting an order I can tolerate. But when the main dishes suck, that’s the final straw.
That’s when our “waiter” came by to ask how things were going. By this time, I’d already abdicated the throne, surrendered, and fled the country. There was no rescuing this horrible experience. I contemplated asking to talk to management, but what’s the best-case scenario? A free meal? Who wants a shitty free meal, or a discount for the next visit, when THERE WILL BE NO FUCKING NEXT VISIT?
Back to the waiter’s inquest:
“Everything’s fine. But we never received the bowl of wonton soup,” I said.
“You change mind,” the waiter said.
“Um, no, I didn’t. I pointed at the menu and ordered the wonton soup as a starter and then the two rice dishes, and we never received the soup.”
“But when you place order, you change mind,” the waiter insisted.
This is going so well, I thought. Just what you want to totally top off a horrible meal and experience — an argumentative waiter.
“You still want wonton, I make it for you. It take ten minute,” the waiter said.
“No,” I replied. “I change mind.”
Dining at Rice Republic was a total disaster. Aside from appalling service, they serve tasteless, overpriced food in small portions.
P.F. Chang’s, look out. You’ve got some serious competition.